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Sacred artefacts go missing

A stupa at Oudong Mountain in Kandal province. Authorities are investigating the apparent theft of artefacts from the site this week
A stupa at Oudong Mountain in Kandal province. Authorities are investigating the apparent theft of artefacts from the site this week. Heng Chivoan

Sacred artefacts go missing

Kandal provincial authorities and officials from multiple ministries are investigating the apparent theft of historical artefacts from a stupa at Oudong Mountain said to contain some remains of Buddha himself.

Relevant authorities were tight-lipped yesterday about which objects were missing, but a local news outlet reported that several things, including Buddha’s ashes, had been stolen on Tuesday night from the stupa, which also houses the remains of Cambodian kings.

“Because it is under the control of the authorities involved, we cannot say what precious things are lost, but we saw the Buddha stupa’s door is open [and] we are investigating,” Kandal Provincial Governor Phay Bunthoeun said.

Tan Chay, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Heritage Police, said that his subordinates are gathering information but also declined to say what was missing.

“We are questioning the provincial authorities to be sure. It won’t be known until [today],” he said.

A police officer in Ponhea Leu district, who would identify himself only as Bol, said that officials from the Ministry of Cults and Religion, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Royal Palace were investigating around the mountain and former Cambodian Royal capital.

Officials from the two ministries could not be reached for comment, and Royal Palace Cabinet member Oum Daravuth said he was unaware of the matter.

Rumours were also swirling among local residents, who said that they, too, were in the dark about what exactly was stolen, but that the road leading up to the mountain had been closed since the incident.

“It has been closed since December 10, but we could travel around [below] the mountain,” said a 30-year-old villager who asked not to be named. “It was said that the Buddha’s urn was not stolen, but some said that they stole not only the urn, but also some gold. But I am not sure yet.”

The three people said to be guarding the mountain on the day in question had all reportedly been questioned, the villager added.

Chea Socheat, of the National Museum, said he had only heard of the theft through local news, but that he “very much regret[ted] the loss of history”.

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